Surgeon-superintendent to the Plymouth Company and diarist.
Weekes was born at Barnstaple, Devonshire, in 1804, and took up medicine, gaining his M.R.C.S. and, in 1836, a silver medal for physiology. He was attacked by “emigration fever” in 1840 and signed as surgeon-superintendent on the Plymouth Company's William Bryan, in which he assumed the dual roles of surgeon and spiritual adviser. The demand for his professional services was light in healthy Taranaki, so he turned his hand to other things and, in November 1841, compiled the first reliable meteorological reports from the new colony. He shared the colonists' dissatisfaction in the Company's arrangements for their reception, and when he obtained his 50-acre land grant in Fitzroy, he subdivided and sold it at a handsome profit, thus becoming the first Taranaki land speculator. Weekes left New Plymouth in February 1842, and returned to England, via Valparaiso and Cape Horn. He practised medicine at Barnstaple, and contributed a notable article on Taranaki ironsands to the New Zealand Journal (10 April 1843). He brought his newly married wife to Auckland in 1845, where they began sheep farming on Puketutu Island, but in 1849, disgusted by Sir George Grey's “destructive” land policy, he sold up and went to California, where he combined medicine with gold digging. He returned to England in 1854 but again visited New Zealand, where he served with the Auckland Militia during the Maori Wars. Weekes left New Zealand finally to settle in the British colony at Barcelona, but returned to England in 1889, where he remained until his death in 1894.
Weekes played an important mediating part in the infant Taranaki settlement, where his unfailing good humour did much to ease the tensions between Company and colonists. But his greatest service lay in the voluminous diary, in which he recorded his impressions of the birth pangs of a famous settlement.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- History of Taranaki, Wells, B. (1878)
- Pioneer Medical Men in Taranaki (1834–1880), Skinner, W. H. (1933)
- Plymouth to New Plymouth, Wood, R. G. (1959)